When Matt Cutts announced the Penguin 2.0 (Next Generation of Penguin) was soon to roll out, many businesses started scrambling to prepare, and marketing firms everywhere including my company, Advice Interactive Group (which has always “Played by Google’s Rules”) were concerned. This latest Google algorithm update has dramatically changed the industry’s ability to detect and act quickly on link building and other SEO practices that Google considers detrimental.
The now famous Penguin Update (originally dubbed the “over-optimization penalty” by Google representative and self-proclaimed “spam cop”, Matt Cutts) has had devastating effects on small business owners from coast to coast. Stretching far beyond what the search giant has attempted prior, this latest algo-filter is able to distill “good links” from “bad links”, and quickly adjust SERP rankings in the process.
Despite this seeming omniscience by the latest filter, webmasters are fighting back in droves, and are quickly adopting quite a few creative tactics in their recovery plan. If this latest update has hit one of your websites, take note of the following steps to help salvage your sites.
Many of the big players in the Search Engine Optimization game are reporting that use of these strategies can help recover affected sites in some cases as quickly as in a few short weeks. Of course a good look at your existing backlinks and a disavow strategy may also be needed to complete your recovery but that’s for another conversation.
From the first days of Penguin’s implementation, overzealous webmasters proclaimed that “over-optimization” of the anchor text used in backlinks was the main focus of the attack, but what many of them failed to realize was the fact that backlinks with over-optimized anchor text generally go hand in hand with getting links from unnatural sources. As a result, the smartest SEOs among us have figured out that the anchor text issue is actually just an innocent bystander. The real culprit, it seems, is having a link profile that consists wholly of ill-gotten inbound links. In other words: If the majority of the links pointing back at your site are coming from sites with very low authority, that neglects to monitor their submissions, then your site will likely have been one of those hit by the Penguin filter.
How do we define what a “low authority site” actually is? One of the most obvious indicators is little to no traffic. If the sites that are linking to yours don’t actually have any traffic of their own, then that’s a pretty good indicator that they’re sites of low authority, and will likely hurt your site more than help it. Another indicator that’s rather easy to spot is links from websites that have no social engagement signals. If the website’s content has no reader comments, no social sharing activity, and isn’t being talked about anywhere else on the web, then that is a good signal that the site exists for the sole purpose of carrying fake outbound links.
While no one has gauged the actual percentages at play here yet, or at what point the filter actually kicks in, the quick trick to recovery is to balance your un-natural links with more-natural looking links from websites in “good neighborhoods” (i.e., from higher authority websites). If your site has been hit, and close to 100% of your inbound links are “garbage links”, then the fastest way to get your SERP rankings back is to balance out all those low quality links by adding links from websites and blogs that are getting actual search traffic (and social signals) of their own and actually offer some relevant value to you and their readers.
The ability to create premium quality content for your website is of paramount importance in any link building campaign. The best links are informative and “journalistic” and are positioned within the body of a web page. You may sometimes have to write articles or blog posts yourself, but many companies choose to hire professional writers to ensure that their content is as useful and high quality as possible.
To say the least, producing unique and informative content is a must for a successful website in the post-Penguin world. Writing interesting and unique content helps boost your search engine rankings. Do not allow the extra work and effort involved in getting it right stand between you and the top tiers of the search engine hierarchy!
In addition, do not focus on just one method of link building. It is important that you include a mixture of link types in order to end up with a well-rounded and unique link profile. Articles, forum posts, blog posts and comments and brand links should all be incorporated. Some of these methods have been in existence for some time, and if performed correctly they are still useful, even after Penguin.
Infographics are a great way of building links, but be careful. As Ed Ward tells us in a Search Engine Watch article, bad infographics are bad for link attraction, while great infographics, that help take complex statistical data and make it understandable (or funny) will always be a great way to attract links and traffic.
Every time you create one of these types of documents make sure you share them on your blog or on a site like slide share. Slide share can be a great secret weapon for content marketing. As a matter of fact, Rand Fishkin from MOZ.com recommends including presentations in content marketing and SEO strategy. Not only does uploading your documents to sites like SlideShare give you great inbound links, he tells us “SlideShare automatically transcribes the text in your presentation when you upload. This makes it easy for search engines to find. This will help your SEO. “
MyCommerce, posted a blog by Chris Hoel with a few tips to use the power of videos to increase the traffic to a website. It has been said that a picture speaks a thousand words. Well, videos take that to the next level. He tells us that adding videos to a website can provide a huge boost in SEO. The videos provide an easier and more exciting way for consumers to get information than reading pages and pages full of text. Youtube has grown to become the second largest search engine behind Google with the average internet user watching more than 200 hours of video online in a year. With that many people online watching videos, it would be a smart decision to create a channel and start sharing.
Blog commenting is one of the strongest and the most powerful ways of good link building, but only if you leave valuable comments. Sourvrav Saha from Blogaholic tells us that this will automatically help you draw more traffic to your website improving the visibility and creating a huge significance in the market. Also she tells us that when it comes to dropping links, leave behind your blog’s URL in the website field. And don’t use any keyword, use your real name—preferably first and last name. You might use it like this “Name @ Blog” as an example “Sourav Saha @ Blogaholic”
Increased website traffic is just one of the main reasons why many writers choose to begin guest blogging in the first place. Most websites allow writers to submit a bio and/or their social media profile URLs to be published at the end of the post. These links drive referral traffic and boost organic search rankings, resulting in better search visibility for the author’s website. The Search Engine Journal article by Jason DeMeyers gives us the top 5 benefits of guest blogging and is a good article to read.
Other link building ideas for good content include:
Adding value to your site with a useful article or blog post is a great way to build links from other sites and individuals. The web has become glutted with low-quality material, giving you the opportunity to stand out. High quality content will always attract links. Therefore, if you are building links by way of blog posts, always try to maximize how interesting, useful and entertaining your readers will find each post.
When building links and adding content for your site, it is important to keep in mind the people who will be visiting the site and reading your material. Write according to the interests and backgrounds of your readers; this can help generate links and improve the results of your SEO efforts, especially since sharing of social content has become such an important factor in SEO. The more often your content is shared, the better, and if your readers enjoy the content you have produced, they are more likely to want to share it and link to it.
Tools make link building and SEO jobs easier, but they are no substitute for a hands-on touch. Sites that lack a manual review process eventually decrease in value and are often penalized. If you can acquire a link from a site or a directory without a manual review process, that link is virtually guaranteed to lose value in the near future.
Use tools such as SEOMoz’s Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO to help pinpoint domains that include significant hierarchy on the search engine tier. These instruments exist to help you identify the best sites, but you must still monitor them manually. Ask yourself these questions:
Even though adding value with a useful article or blog post is a great way to build links, the web has become glutted with low quality material that conveys little or no actual value to its readers. It is important to always try to add value to the websites to which you link, especially with Penguin in place. High quality content will naturally attract links. Therefore, if you are building links through blog commenting, always try to make a relevant and useful comment to add value to the discussion of the post. Not only does this mean your comment is more likely to get accepted by the blog owner who is constructing the back link, it also helps improve your site’s value in Google’s eyes.
When looking for quality link sources, you should pay close attention to any available metrics data for the pages you consider; they will give you a good indication of the quality of the link. Metrics you can examine include PageRank, Domain Authority, Page Authority, MozRank, MozTrust, Linking Root Domains, and External Link Volume, among others. Metrics like SEOMoz’s Domain Authority (DA) and MozTrust (MT) can be particularly informative. Ideally, you should try to only link to websites that have a DA score that is at least equal to your own or higher.
PageRank (PR) is employed by the Google scoring system. Site ranks run from zero to ten, although the visible PR score is not always accurate, and can be out of date. Domain Authority is SEOMoz’s best attempt at determining how well a domain will perform in the search engine hierarchy. The scores range from 0 to 10 and are computed in conjunction with such other metrics as the number of linking root domains and the total number of links. It provides a solid general overview of a domain. Page Authority is much the same as DA, but it is based on the page level rather than the domain level.
MozRank is visual evidence of the number of links to a webpage. It is computed using the volume of links, and number of root domains that directs to a page. MozTrust works similarly to MozRank, but instead of representing the number and quality of inbound links to a page, it measures the overall trust value of these links. If the page is known to be trustworthy, it increases the quality of a back link.
Be sure to periodically review your links in Google Webmaster Tools and Open Site Explorer. It is also a good idea to maintain a spreadsheet record of the links you have acquired. Keep track of the origin of these links and what their anchor text looks like. Monitoring your links also gives you an opportunity to get in touch with people who are already linking to you and leverage those relationships for even better results.
As devastating as this updated filter has been to many small business websites, ultimately it will prove to be a good thing for most of us because now and in the future, we can spend more of our time creating and marketing great content and less time manufacturing low quality filler-text (written solely for the purpose of creating faux backlinks). Google’s algorithm is now capable of judging “quality” with much better accuracy than it ever has before, and as a result (possibly for the first time in the history of Search Engine Optimization) pages with only a very few (but high quality) links can easily outrank pages with thousands of (low quality) links.
If you’re one of those people that hate to do link building, then these are the early stages of what we’ve always hoped for. It’s now possible to compete in the search results without having to spend boatloads of time (and possibly money) trying to “manufacture” thousands of fake inbound links.
These are good times to be in the World of Internet Marketing. The future is looking bright – jump on board!